Poor bastard, Frank thought to himself as he poured his coffee. That test was a bona fide mind fuck. He’d seen people just up and leave, not even checking a single box. But, given what they already knew about the man, he probably wouldn’t. He’d better not. Not if they didn’t want to wait another nine months.

He headed back to the main office. It’d always been a little too open concept for Frank’s personal taste, even if he’d gotten used to it. Sure, it promoted a friendly social atmosphere between everybody, and he’d certainly think the others benefited from it, Benny the most, but certainly Nora, Tasmin and Andy, sorry, Dr. Burnes, he corrected as he glanced at the empty desk across from Nora’s then towards the window. If Gary passed Pal’s test, the black guy would probably be given one of the empty desks by the window.

Looked like he could hack it though. Gary Bellamy had the broad shoulders of a linebacker, and appeared as though he worked out. Dressed like an office man, though, sports jacket, tie, short hair. Frank wondered how long it would take him to relax into the job. Maybe that was a bet Benny would go for. Some over/under deal.

Poor bastard, he thought again. Frank remembered what it had been like for him, with the sun arcing across the sky every day. Like being roasted in an easy-bake oven. He’d even made cookies by putting dough on the sill. Took most of a day, though, and they’d ended up chewier than he’d liked. Dr. Burnes had liked them though.

Thinking of that, he remembered they hadn’t heard about Tasmin and Andy for a good week. Weren’t negotiations supposed to be almost done at this point?

“Any word about our pair in the Maghreb?” he called over to Nora. As usual, he had to ask as second time.

“No calls from the French Consulate,” Frank heard her reply with a sigh from behind the divider. “Apparently there are some final details that need to be.”

“Isn’t that what they’d said last week?” he asked.

“The tribesman haven’t gotten back about the latest offer,” she told him, sounding as frustrated as ever. He felt for her. Her sister and former professor stuck in some camp in the desert after having been abducted by the very Tuareg tribesman they’d been trying to contact.

He wandered around the divider. She was wearing her pantsuit today, with her brown hair tied back in a loose ponytail. She wasn’t wearing much makeup on her face, but she was young enough not to need it. Ah, twenties, great skin, good figure, lots of energy. Something that concerned Cathy to no end after the Christmas party three years ago. But then, his wife hadn’t spent much actual time getting to know the girl.

Nora looked up and then held up a hand.

“Excuse me for a moment. No. Yes. Thursday,” she said to the air. “Now go and check the new guy out right now. No, I need you to go there and have a look. I won’t if you won’t.”

Suddenly, she jerked her head to the left.

“No stop doing that. Fuck!” she swore. “Stop it! I’m in the office.”

Frank was used to waiting for Nora while she was ‘busy’. He stepped over to his desk while she was at it, picked up to the scans from the Ottawa National Forest find he’d left on his desk. Feds had finally sent them last week, sipped his coffee. The bones were especially interesting. And the shoes they’d been found in just added more confirmation. He stepped back towards Nora’s workstation, doing his best to ignore her complaining and threatening her invisible friend.

“Okay,” Nora called back. “What were you asking, again?”

“Tasmin and Andy?” he began again.

“You mean Dr. Burnes?” she said.

“Yes, yes, Dr. Burnes,” Frank repeated. “You know, our two co-workers who went to Africa in search of some crazy rumor about ancient tablets detailing a cure for cancer and all that.”

“Don’t be an ass Frank. The French are doing everything they can,” she said, sounding defeated despite the protest. “What more do you want?”

“I don’t know,” Frank offered. “Word they are maybe still alive?”

Go to Chapter Three

Go to Chapter Five